7.5 Categories and Decades

Looking at the categories by decades rather than eras doesn’t tell us a whole lot more, but it tells us a few things. Here is the popularity of each category from the 1890s to 1940s.

Table 7.18: Popularity of categories in first six decades
1890s 1900s 1910s 1920s 1930s 1940s
Philosophy of Mind Idealism Philosophy of Mind Philosophy of Mind Logic and Mathematics Logic and Mathematics
Idealism Philosophy of Mind Idealism Idealism Philosophy of Science Philosophy of Science
History of Philosophy History of Philosophy Logic and Mathematics Philosophy of Science Philosophy of Mind Social and Political
Social and Political Logic and Mathematics History of Philosophy History of Philosophy History of Philosophy Philosophy of Mind
Ethics Social and Political Social and Political Social and Political Idealism History of Philosophy
Philosophy of Science Philosophy of Science Philosophy of Science Logic and Mathematics Social and Political Ethics
Logic and Mathematics Ethics Ethics Ethics Ethics Idealism
Metaphysics Metaphysics Metaphysics Metaphysics Metaphysics Philosophy of Language
Aesthetics Philosophy of Religion Philosophy of Religion Philosophy of Religion Philosophy of Language Metaphysics
Philosophy of Religion Aesthetics Epistemology Aesthetics Aesthetics Aesthetics
Philosophy of Language Epistemology Philosophy of Language Epistemology Philosophy of Religion Philosophy of Religion
Epistemology Philosophy of Language Aesthetics Philosophy of Language Epistemology Epistemology

The big story there, to my mind, is the continuing domination of Idealism through the 1920s. Before I did this study, I had no idea that Idealism was so important to the journals for so long. If not for the work that we’d now call psychology as much as philosophy, it would be the dominant philosophical topic for the first 50 years of the sample.

I’ve been downplaying the significance of positivism to the journals, so it’s worth noting that here is a place that it seems to show up. When Idealism is displaced, and the psychology articles are excised, it is categories associated with positivism that take over. When we looked at this at a topic by topic level it wasn’t clear that it was the positivism in those topics that was the driving force. But it is clear that there is a hard turn here towards more technical work, and positivism has to be partially responsible for that.

Let’s move on to the later six decades.

Table 7.19: Popularity of categories in last six decades
1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s
Logic and Mathematics Logic and Mathematics Ethics Ethics Philosophy of Science Philosophy of Science
Philosophy of Science Ethics Philosophy of Science Philosophy of Science Philosophy of Mind Ethics
Philosophy of Mind Philosophy of Mind Philosophy of Mind Philosophy of Mind Ethics Philosophy of Mind
Ethics Philosophy of Science Logic and Mathematics Logic and Mathematics Metaphysics Metaphysics
History of Philosophy Philosophy of Language Social and Political Metaphysics Logic and Mathematics Logic and Mathematics
Social and Political Social and Political Philosophy of Language Social and Political Philosophy of Language Epistemology
Philosophy of Language History of Philosophy Metaphysics Philosophy of Language Social and Political Philosophy of Language
Metaphysics Metaphysics History of Philosophy History of Philosophy Epistemology Social and Political
Idealism Epistemology Epistemology Epistemology History of Philosophy History of Philosophy
Aesthetics Aesthetics Aesthetics Philosophy of Religion Philosophy of Religion Aesthetics
Epistemology Philosophy of Religion Philosophy of Religion Aesthetics Aesthetics Philosophy of Religion
Philosophy of Religion Idealism Idealism Idealism Idealism Idealism

The eras correspond more closely to decades after 1950, so this doesn’t tell us much that we didn’t already see. But it tells us one important thing. Note that Ethics is almost at the top in the 1960s. When looking at the earlier graphs and tables, I was wondering how much the rise of Ethics as a category had to do simply with Philosophy and Public Affairs opening in 1970. And the answer is that the rise is happening even before Philosophy and Public Affairs comes online. Now of course when it does come online it makes a difference. But it’s a less dramatic difference than I expected. (In part because Philosophy and Public Affairs publishes long articles, and I’m primarily measuring by article count.) It might be more plausible to say that the rise in importance of Ethics inside philosophy makes it possible for Philosophy and Public Affairs to launch as a prestigious journal, rather than the launch of Philosophy and Public Affairs as a prestigious journal making Ethics more important in the discipline.

Let’s also take a look at the distinctiveness measures. These tables, recall, rank each category by what proportion of the articles in that category appear in a particular decade. This is a particularly informative measure for the smaller categories such as Aesthetics and Philosophy of Religion.

Table 7.20: Distinctiveness of categories in first six decades
1890s 1900s 1910s 1920s 1930s 1940s
Idealism Idealism Idealism Idealism Idealism History of Philosophy
Philosophy of Mind History of Philosophy History of Philosophy Philosophy of Religion History of Philosophy Idealism
History of Philosophy Philosophy of Mind Philosophy of Religion History of Philosophy Logic and Mathematics Social and Political
Philosophy of Religion Philosophy of Religion Philosophy of Mind Aesthetics Aesthetics Aesthetics
Aesthetics Social and Political Social and Political Social and Political Philosophy of Religion Philosophy of Religion
Social and Political Logic and Mathematics Logic and Mathematics Philosophy of Mind Social and Political Logic and Mathematics
Metaphysics Aesthetics Metaphysics Logic and Mathematics Philosophy of Mind Philosophy of Science
Ethics Metaphysics Aesthetics Philosophy of Science Philosophy of Science Philosophy of Mind
Logic and Mathematics Ethics Philosophy of Science Metaphysics Metaphysics Ethics
Philosophy of Science Philosophy of Science Ethics Ethics Philosophy of Language Philosophy of Language
Epistemology Epistemology Epistemology Epistemology Ethics Metaphysics
Philosophy of Language Philosophy of Language Philosophy of Language Philosophy of Language Epistemology Epistemology

That’s mostly not too surprising. Though note how much Idealism is hanging around into the 1940s. Moore’s refutation really took a long time to bite. Philosophy of Religion is, not surprisingly, a proportionally much bigger deal in the early twentieth century than it is later. And we’re back to measures that really don’t make positivism leap from the page. Let’s end with a look at the later six decades.

Table 7.21: Distinctveness of categories in last six decades
1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s
History of Philosophy Logic and Mathematics Philosophy of Language Ethics Epistemology Epistemology
Aesthetics Philosophy of Language Ethics Epistemology Metaphysics Metaphysics
Logic and Mathematics Philosophy of Religion Social and Political Metaphysics Philosophy of Science Philosophy of Science
Philosophy of Religion Aesthetics Aesthetics Philosophy of Language Ethics Ethics
Philosophy of Language Ethics Logic and Mathematics Social and Political Philosophy of Language Philosophy of Language
Social and Political History of Philosophy Metaphysics Philosophy of Science Philosophy of Mind Philosophy of Mind
Philosophy of Mind Philosophy of Mind Epistemology Philosophy of Religion Social and Political Logic and Mathematics
Ethics Social and Political Philosophy of Science Philosophy of Mind Logic and Mathematics Social and Political
Philosophy of Science Philosophy of Science Philosophy of Religion Logic and Mathematics Philosophy of Religion Aesthetics
Idealism Epistemology Philosophy of Mind Aesthetics History of Philosophy Philosophy of Religion
Metaphysics Metaphysics History of Philosophy History of Philosophy Aesthetics History of Philosophy
Epistemology Idealism Idealism Idealism Idealism Idealism

This way of looking at things makes the fall of Idealism look much later than I expected, but fairly dramatic when it happens.

The low rank for Social and Political in the 2000s really surprises me. I do not expect that would persist if we continued the study through the 2010s.

And I’m also surprised at the low rank in the 2000s of Aesthetics, Philosophy of Religion and History of Philosophy. It’s not just that these topics aren’t discussed much in the twelve journals. (Casual observation would tell you that.) It’s that they are not discussed much relative to their historical norms. That’s surprising, and not an altogether positive development.